Group Holds Fundraiser for Commemorating Fallen Soldiers

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State Sen. Wayne Wallingford, left, poses with Susan and Jim Jacobs, who on Saturday received a signed copy of a bill that allows memorial signs for soldiers be placed along highways throughout the state. Their son, Zachary Fisher, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, and signs in his honor soon will be placed in Fisher's hometown of Ballwin, Missouri.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Jim and Susan Jacobs of Ballwin, Missouri, have been waiting more than three years to have memorial highway signs erected in honor of their son, Zachary Fisher, 24, who was killed in 2010 when insurgents in Afghanistan attacked his military vehicle with an improvised explosive device.

 

Now, with help from the local not-for-profit Heroes Way, the Jacobs soon will see the signs along a well-traveled highway in Ballwin, honoring Fisher who was known for his big heart and the love he had for his family and friends.

In 2009, the state of Missouri passed a bill that allows relatives of Missourians who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom to ask that an interstate interchange be named in a soldier's honor.

The Jacobs wanted to place the signs where they'd be seen each day by his friends and family in Ballwin, but since the bill limited the signs to interstate interchanges, the signs couldn't be erected within Fisher's hometown.

So, the Jacobs and Heroes Way worked with legislators to change the bill, allowing the signs to be an option for those in rural and other areas.

And at a Heroes Way fundraising event Saturday in Jackson, the couple was presented with a signed copy of the recently revised bill by state Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau.

"It's always exciting when the governor signs a bill, but this was more than exciting," Wallingford said. "This was truly humbling to have the governor sign this particular bill."

The Jacobs on Saturday also completed an application for those signs, which will be placed along Highway 100 in Ballwin.

"We'll get to see his signs all the time," Susan Jacobs said, adding so will his friends. "They'll all tell you that he was their best friend."

The Jacobs were among several families honored at the fifth annual "Minute to Win it" event Saturday, which is the organization's signature fundraiser, said Heroes Way president Ross Gartman of Delta.

Tables at the event included biographies, photographs and dog tags with the names of those who lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. Two other families who lost a loved one also completed applications to have signs placed near their hometowns.

Gartman, who served 16 years as an Army National Guard combat engineer in the 1140th Engineer Battalion, founded Heroes Way in 2008 after an improvised explosive device killed his friend and fellow soldier, Brad Skelton, in Iraq.

The organization has since been dedicated to memorializing Missouri soldiers who died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan by having road signs erected in their honor along Missouri highways close to the soldiers' hometowns.

The Missouri Department of Transportation collects a fee of $3,600 for the installation and maintenance of the signs, and Heroes Way works with communities to raise the needed funds for the memorials, preventing families from being burdened by the cost. The organization also serves as a liaison between the family and MoDOT.

"When we did the first sign, it was extremely powerful," Gartman said. "Every individual soldier has a story, and so do their families. They're all unique in their own way."

The Jacobs were able to raise a portion of the cost for their son's signs, and Heroes Way will pay the remainder.

"Every soldier deserves a sign," Susan Jacobs said. "What we always said about Zach is that he's forever loved, forever missed and he's forever our hero. And everybody needs to know that. That's why we never gave up."

klamb@semissourian.com

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